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5 Questions with...Tribune's Brian Hamilton

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5 Questions with...Tribune's Brian Hamilton

Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.com Contributor

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys most popular personalities on the spot with everyones favorite weekly local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

On Wednesdays, exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weeks guestone of the rising stars on the Chicago Tribune sports staff whos daily task this time of year is covering the most loved and most hated college football team on the planet: The Notre Dame Fighting Irisha New Jersey native who now calls Wrigleyville his homehere are 5 Questions withBRIAN HAMILTON!

BIO: Chicago Tribune sportswriter Brian Hamilton was assigned to the Notre Dame beat in July 2007. Since joining the Tribune in September 2005, Brian has covered everything from the Illinois high school cheerleading championships to the WNBA to the Final Four to Super Bowl XLI to the Winter Olympics to the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup run, nearly all of it without embarrassment. In the summer of 2006, he wrote a profile of a plucky, under-the-radar recruit named Jimmy Clausen, giving the kid an infusion of much-needed publicity.

Prior to arriving at the Tribune, Brian spent six years scraping permafrost off his notebook while working in Minnesota at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and mainly covering college football, basketball and the NBA's Timberwolves. This after attending one of the best schools for journalism in America, Northwestern University, and taking full advantage by majoring in English and creative writing while dropping his one journalism class after two weeks.

Brian grew up on the north side of Westfield, N.J., and now lives in Lakeview.

1) CSNChicago.com: Brian, college football fans across the country are still talking about that wild finish to the Notre Dame-Michigan State game a couple Saturdays ago, in particular, the non delay of game call in OT that many Irish fans felt was grossly mishandled by the officiating crew. What was your take on that controversial moment and do you think that kind of loss hurts the Irish coachesplayers mindset going forward (they werent very competitive at home against 9 Stanford this past weekend)?

Hamilton: Well, if it hurts them moving forward, then Brian Kelly has no shot at teaching this group of players how to win, because that means they aren't buying into one of his core philosophies, one that most coaches have: Leave a loss behind after 24 hours. So I don't expect it to have much carryover. Unless, of course, they keep losing close games again and again and again, and then you can start talking about a cumulative effect. But for the near-term, I think they're fine mentally.

As for the call, someone with way, way more free time than I have broke down the sequence frame-by-frame. And the conclusion was that between the stadium play clock not the clock on ESPN's graphic -- hitting :00 and the snap of the ball, there was merely a fraction of a second of time. Like so small that it's not humanly possible for an official to take his eye from the clock, move it to the snap and determine the snap was late. But I'm of the same mindset as Brian Kelly regardless: If the Irish line up differently or two of them simply don't get run over by Michigan State players, it's moot, because they'd probably have prevented the touchdown anyway.

2) CSNChicago.com: The arrival of Brian Kelly as head coach this season is widely considered one of the best moves the ND football program has made in yearsnot only for the short term, but more for the long-term potential success of the program. With all the hype and great expectations associated with Kellys hiring, will anything short of a national title in, lets say, 4-5 years be considered a failure?

Hamilton: I'd alter that a bit and say that anything less than contention for a BCS bowl within three years probably would be a disappointment. While there are some veterans on this team, there is a lot of talent among the underclassmen, too, and the starting quarterback began this season with three years of eligibility. And the 2011 recruiting class contains two significant top 100 defensive line recruits in Stephon Tuitt and Aaron Lynch that, in a couple years, should be pretty formidable. Assuming those guys stick with their commitments, of course.

In other words, they have some guys who will fill some holes that have plagued Notre Dame for years. But a national title run may require some luck, or some real affection for the college game from guys like Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph. At this point, it's absurd or delusional to think that one or both won't seriously entertain the thought of the NFL after this season. If they come back, the Irish should be a BCS team next year and anything less would be a disappointment. If they don't, the bar gets reset a bit lower for 2011.

3) CSNChicago.com: Recently, Notre DameNFL legend Joe Montana debunked the Rudy myth involving the diminutive, yet determined ND walk-on Daniel Rudy Ruettiger stating the crowd wasnt chanting RUDY, RUDY! at the end of that Georgia Tech game and that his teammates were only playing around when they carried him off the field. Your opinion: sour grapes on Montanas part or, since movies do take liberties with real life stories, is he probably right about this one?

Hamilton: This shocked me exactly zero percent, considering that even the most mature college upperclassmen are still college kids. They certainly have the capacity for compassion, but they also have a perhaps even greater capacity for humor and good, old-fashioned, no-harm-no-foul needling. If what happened was what Joe Montana says what happened, and you're shocked by it, you're also the type of person that's stunned to learn college kids sleep late, skip class and occasionally enjoy a frosty adult beverage.

On top of that, was what Montana said really all that bad? Was it really all that mean? I didn't see it that way, but then I'd take "Hoosiers" over "Rudy" pretty much any hour of any day.

4) CSNChicago.com: Youve traveled around the country visiting some of the nations best college football stadiums for a number of years now. In terms of fan atmosphere, facilities, playing field, etc., whats your favorite stadium to visitand least favorite?

Hamilton: Before I get assailed by emails from SEC or Big 12 fans, I will remind them that my college football writing career has involved two teams: Minnesota and Notre Dame, a Holtz-ian itinerary that has sort of restricted my stadium visits. That said, of the places I've been, nothing sticks out more in my mind than a Wisconsin game at Camp Randall Stadium. The press box literally shakes before the fourth-quarter, when the crowd goes nuts to House of Pain's "Jump Around. It's a huge place, the crowd is insanely into it and it's always electric.

Other highlights? There is nothing like the view at the Rose Bowl. Gorgeous place to watch a game, although Lewis & Clark made it to the Pacific Ocean in less time than it takes to get to your parking lot there. I wish Notre Dame would schedule a home-and-home with Iowa, and play Washington at Washington every year. Ohio Stadium (The Horseshoe) is just impressive, period. Notre Dame Stadium, for the record, is not the best but not anywhere near the worst place to work a college football game.

The worst? Well, I'm pathologically jealous of all Minnesota writers who get to watch games at TCF Bank Stadium, as six years of Metrodome home games for the Gophers felt like weekly visits to the fifth circle of hell. And I'm gonna get killed for this, but if I never cover another game at Penn State, I'll be thrilled. Atmosphere is great, but it's impossible to get to and the press box is antiquated at best. The accommodations in State College? My last hotel room there didn't have a WINDOW. No joke. It takes ages to fight through traffic and then tailgaters curse at you for driving to your assigned parking spot. Repeat: ASSIGNED parking spot. Way, way too much hassle for one day or night of work.

5) CSNChicago.com: Name your top three favorite local establishments that you consider to be hidden gems in our fine city (provide a brief line or two on why you like each one).

Hamilton: After several false starts, we finally made it to A Tavola (2148 W. Chicago) and we were not disappointed. Absolutely no better place to go for an exceptionally warm, cozy atmosphere, great service, wine and food. Brown sage butter gnocchi? Yes, please.

It's not really "hidden" at least not when my friends from New Jersey visit and make a point to go but I enjoyed The Bristol (2152 N. Damen) the couple times I've visited. Nothing like killing the annoyance of a table wait with an upstairs anteroom essentially dedicated to drinking.

And, again, not exactly hidden, but I have yet to go wrong with the brisket & gravy at Southport Grocery (3552 N. Southport). And other sources familiar with eating breakfast with me have yet to go wrong with the bread pudding pancakes there.

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: Anything you would like to plug Brian? CSNChicago.com readers want to hear about it

Hamilton: Well, I'd hope that everyone would attend my upcoming charity fundraiser at Sunda, benefitting my two favorite causes: Saving the Midwest Aboriginal Muskrat, and getting Lauren Conrad to hook up with Devin Aromashodu.

Seriously, though, just click on the many posts from me and my Tribune colleagues at ChicagoBreakingSports.com, and follow my Twitter account: @ChiTribHamilton. And also, if you see Teddy Greenstein around, just yell "PLAYOFF!" in his face really, really loud. He loves that.

Hamilton LINKS:

Chicago TribuneCollege Sports

Chicago Breaking SportsNotre Dame

Brian Hamilton on Twitter

Carlos Boozer says Nate Robinson was one of his favorite teammate because 'he would bring snacks to every flight'

Carlos Boozer says Nate Robinson was one of his favorite teammate because 'he would bring snacks to every flight'

Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson only played one season together with the Bulls. But oh, what a memorable campaign it was.

And it produced a friendship that still lasts to this day. Cupcakes and snacks will do just that.

Boozer retold a story to NBC Sports Chicago on Tuesday of Robinson and his daughter, Navyi, baking cupcakes for Bulls players on road trips.

"We had so much fun. Me and Nate hit it off right away," Boozer said. "We're both very animated, we're both very loud, we talk a lot, we're great teammates. We love playing passionately, we compete.

"Nate is one of the best teammates I ever had. I played my whole life, I've been playing a long time and he's the only teammate that would bring snacks to every flight. And we'd travel on the road, he would bake us cupcakes for every road game. I never had that before.

"Him and his daughter, Navyi, would bake the cupcakes before every road game. So every road game we'd get to the plane and Nate would hook us up with cupcakes.

"Just a great teammate. He'd go through a brick wall for you, never complained, practice every day, play every day, ready to come and give it his best."

Boozer and Robinson will face off against each other during the Big3 Tournament, which begins this weekend in Houston. The league will travel to Chicago and the United Center on June 29.

"I'm looking forward to being in Chicago," Boozer said. "We've got a lot of great fans out there. I miss the (United Center), miss that Chicagotime summer weather and looking forward to getting back out there in a couple weeks."

Boozer's Ghost Ballers and Robinson's Tri-State team won't square off against one another until Week 5 in Miami. But it's sure to be a fun matchup for the two friends and snack buddies.

"He's one of my brothers, one of my closest friends," Boozer said. "Nate has been training like an animal and he's gonna use this platform to show everybody how much skills he has, also to get back into the NBA. Nate's a great talent and I'm looking forward to seeing him get down."

Boozer's team includes co-captains Mike Bibby and Ricky Davis, which gives them a pretty solid trio heading into the event. But no teammate, NBA or Big3, can match Nate Rob and his cupcakes.

Check out more on the Big3 right here.

Why what Mike Montgomery did against LA could go a long way toward keeping him in the Cubs' rotation

Why what Mike Montgomery did against LA could go a long way toward keeping him in the Cubs' rotation

Joe Maddon needed Mike Montgomery to get through at least six innings given the circumstances presenting the Cubs' manager before Game 2 of Tuesday’s day-night doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Not only were the Cubs short a man in the bullpen (thanks to Brandon Morrow’s pants-related back injury), but Maddon had to use four relievers — including Pedro Strop for two innings — after Tyler Chatwood managed only five innings in Game 1 earlier in the afternoon. 

So when Montgomery — who had only thrown over 100 pitches once in the last two and a half seasons before Tuesday — saw his pitch count sit at 40 after two innings, and then 63 after three, he knew he needed to regroup to avoid creating a mess for the Cubs’ bullpen. 

What followed was a start that, statistically, wasn’t the most impressive of the five Montgomery’s made since re-joining the Cubs’ rotation earlier this year. But it was an important start in that the 28-year-old left-hander didn’t have his best stuff, yet didn’t give in to a good Dodgers lineup. And holding that bunch to one run over six innings was exactly what the Cubs needed in what turned out to be a 2-1 extra-inning win. 

“Especially when you don’t have have your best stuff, you always gotta — that’s when you really learn how to pitch,” Montgomery said. 

It’s also the kind of start that could be a major point in Montgomery’s favor when Maddon is presented with a decision to make on his starting rotation whenever Yu Darvish comes off the disabled list. Knowing that Montgomery can grind his way through six innings when his team needs it the most without his best stuff only can add to the confidence the Cubs have in him. 

Montgomery didn’t have his best stuff on Tuesday, issuing more walks (four) than he had in his previous four starts (three). He threw 48 pitches between the second and third innings, and only 25 of those pitches were strikes. Of the nine times the Dodgers reached base against Montgomery, six were the result of fastballs either leading to a walk or a hit. 

Even though the Dodgers were able to bother Montgomery a bit on his fastball, Maddon said that’s the pitch of his that’s impressed him the most over the last few weeks. 

“He never got rushed,” Maddon said. “In the past he would seem to get rushed when things weren’t going well, when he spot-started. Overall, fastball command is better — even though he was off a little bit tonight, the fastball command still exceeds what I’ve seen in the past couple of years on a more consistent basis. The changeup, really, good pitch. He got out of some jams but I think the fact that he knows where his fastball is going now is the difference-maker for him.”

Darvish will throw a simulated game on Wednesday after throwing two bullpen sessions last week. Maddon still doesn’t have a timetable for the $126 million right-hander’s return, and said he’s not entertaining what to do with his rotation until Darvish comes off the disabled list. But Maddon did mention Montgomery’s relative lack of an innings load — the most he’s thrown in a season in 130 2/3, which he did in 2017 — as a reason to perhaps not rush him into a permanent starting role the rest of the season. Going to a six-man rotation is a possibility, too, Maddon said. 

But the over-arching point is this: Montgomery will remain in the Cubs’ rotation as long as he keeps earning it. That can be the product of strong outings in which he has good stuff, or games like Tuesday in which he shows the Cubs the kind of resiliency most starters need to get through a full season. 

“I pitch well, good things happen,” Montgomery said. “I’ve always thought that. Opportunities, you just gotta make the most of them.”